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Royals FC vs Washington Spirit: What We Learned

A win at home and signs of improvement made for a good night in Utah.

Kelley O’Hara and Katrina Gorry celebrate the first goal of the night for the Royals.
Lucas Muller

Halfway through the longest home stand of the year, Utah Royals FC keep giving us first-time experiences. Multiple goals at home, a win, and much better play all around the field made for a great experience for the Royals faithful on a beautiful night in Utah.

Playing it forward

Laura Harvey stuck with the idea of playing Kelley O’Hara up front with Amy Rodriguez, this time, moving Diana Matheson back to the right wing and asking Katrina Gorry to spark things in the number 10 position. It’s hard to argue with the results. Gorry’s movement and skill with the ball had an impact and seemed to free things up in the attack. Matheson’s efforts to win the ball resulted in both goals on the night. The pass from A-Rod to find O’Hara after getting the long ball from Matheson was beautiful. When you put four world-class internationals from some of the best teams in the world up front together, this is just the beginning of what you can expect to see.

Settling in

I’m not sure anyone thought it would take six games, but URFC finally showed signs of what a more relaxed and controlled approach can do for the team. Passes were finding teammates far more often against the Spirit than in the previous five matches, and that both relieved pressure on the defense, and allowed more forward motion to generate chances to attack. The game is always easier when you don’t feel like you’re running uphill to get a chance on goal, and things looked much better tonight.

Washington came out more aggressive for the start of the second half, which was concerning, but Utah was able to manage it and even find a second goal. The defense as a whole had possibly its best game of the season and looked much more connected as a unit. It’s a step in the right direction, and something the team can reflect on as a positive.

Something missing

It’s true that people love a winner. We’ve all been frustrated right along with the team that goals and wins have been hard to come by. If you’re going to spend your money on a sporting event, you justifiably want to see something that leaves you feeling good, something draws and losses don’t normally do.

That said, there were around 13,000 empty seats at the RioT tonight that missed out on this win, and the celebration in the video below that took place afterward. That was an amazing moment to be a part of, but I looked at the large swaths of red in the stands and lamented the chance to have heard that with 20,000 voices behind it. There’s something different, and special, about the connection that women’s soccer teams have with their supporters, and I hate to think that people are missing out on being a part of it.

The takeaway is this: no sports team can guarantee you a win every time out, but they can promise you their effort and determination to work hard to get it for you. Especially in this league, for these players, it’s not about the money or prestige. It’s about all of us who take the time to come out and spend the night watching them do what they love. Come watch these women make history every game.